April 2008 Archives

goLive dead

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GoLive open dialog. I wasn't a GoLive user, but I'm not a Dreamweaver user either. Both seem kind of , well, "wussy". Although Dreamweaver could go away unnoticed by me, Adobe's announcement that it was killing GoLive brought on a tiny bit of grief. I remember seeing it demonstrated by a few Mac reps right after Adobe acquired it, and loved its drag and drop intuitive nature. But I just didn't use it. That is, not until I needed it.

GoLive quicktime window. When I was experimenting with captions in Quicktime, I wrestled with the idea of "Closed Captions"- captions that a user could turn off and on. I downloaded manuals from the Apple Quicktime site to find out how to do it and the answer was a programmable button called a "sprite" that sat in a special "sprite track" in Quicktime. When I discovered that our streaming media server would display captions, but not closed captions, I decided against using them. Then I did experiments with adding a description track to Quicktime movies. It seemed like a useful feature but a second audio track isn't something you would want to be always on. So I looked for tools again; and most sources pointed to GoLive as the tool of choice.

No one that I talked to had ever heard that GoLive did this sort of thing. It did webpages, sure, but it also facilitated the integration of media. I opened the application and sure enough, I could create multi-state buttons, embed them in the movie, and make them turn on a second audio track or open and close captions. Wow. Then I discovered that it would export media as Flash video. Wow again.

Now it's gone. Sniff.

Some sort of touchable hardware/software museum at Penn State would be an amazing tool. I used to have Photoshop 3.5 on a zip and Illustrator 5.5, too. I used them from the disks when I advised on design lists. They don't work any more. I guess GoLive will have a long disk life, but knowing it was available on suitable hardware would be a consolation.

processes

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As a follow up to my last post on comfort v. meaning in ritualized practices (didn't know that's what it was about? sorry.) I'd like to share these images. Webfair registration. Webfair lunch. Webfair display table. I wouldn't choose to take pictures at events. Personal or professional events. I feel like a camera is an encumbrance to my observation, my participation, my involvement, engagement, communication or analysis. In short, cameras are a pain in the ass unless they happen to be the focus of my activity. I've taken pictures at many of our events. Denise did, too; perhaps more. In ten years, I've never known what shots were needed, what quality was expected, what purpose would be served- but click I did. I even tried special film in my own SLR and paid for special processing in an attempt to get past the lighting problems (I hate flash- the way it looks in pictures as well as the intrusion it causes during an event.)

These images are from the last annual Webfair. Nice ones. I have lots of this crap- stuff that no one has seen, no one wants, no one chooses to be bothered with. Its absence changed nothing, and what's worse, putting it here improves nothing.

Well, unless this post has an effect. And sadly, I've hit a wall; writing words about this stuff drains me. Especially when the obvious is so damn clear. What are we selling to faculty if we're the ones to still take comfort in old business rituals like having a photographer at our functions?

What have we learned from Symposium if not that the community can fill our needs? This year the flickr pictures from community phones and cameras equal or surpass any need we might have. Plus, they're tagged and warehoused where people can see and use them. Using them can only help build our community. What words can I possibly write that paint a clearer picture? We don't need an event photographer. How's that?

Encourage the use of public photo spaces. Encourage tagging and develop a taxonomy. Maybe have two or three photophones and phone accounts to loan. Maybe have some clear directions on shooting, uploading, tagging, and subscribing to tags. Use some of our tagged images in publications. If we ever do high resolution four color glossy marketing pieces, we may have need for better images.

This either works or it doesn't, and we won't find out nestling in the bosom of how we always did it. The next time somebody goes through the chair ritual, let's create a flickr tag.

cards

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Kids under a mushroom. Kids on the beach. Kids with Pooh. Kids with stroller. Kids holding hands. Liza in fatigues. I've always made my own cards. I started with cards for mom and dad, but that evolved; the sentiment felt real, and the reality carried over easily into other relationships. I made thank-you cards, christmas cards, and birthday cards, but never could get behind valentines...

When I met my future wife, I did birthday cards for her that featured us as kids doing something specific to the year. The little ring box was the year we got engaged. When we had our daughter, I started doing cards for her, too- a silly drawing of her at the age she was, doing something meaningful to the time. I liked to put some sort of puzzle inside: a rebus, riddle, cryptogram or sudoku with her name instead of numbers.

Very soon after I started working here, someone handed my a manila envelope with instructions to sign the card and pass it on. Inside the envelope was a birthday card for one of the folks that I may have been introduced to, but I wasn't sure. I was a bit surprised. Working with a bunch of adults that celebrated birthdays as if they were in elementary school was a bit disconcerting. Being asked to sign my name to an artificial and insincere sentiment was worse. And folks got down right indignant if I tried to beg off.

You see, signing the card wasn't the worst. Sure, folks were indignant because they didn't understand how I could be so heartless, but more, they were angry that I was skipping out on a responsibility. After you signed the card, you were now obligated to find someone who hadn't signed yet and hand the card to them. As the day wore on, it became more and more difficult. Most viewed the card as a "black spot," a curse that robbed them of time and gave them a task when they may least need an interruption. Card bearers stalked the halls of Computer Building, looking for victims. Someone got the idea to put everyone's name on the envelope and cross them off as people signed. This guarenteed that everyone signed, and had the benefit that card bearers now only had to lay the envelope on an empty office chair of someone whose name hadn't been crossed off.

People actually seemed to enjoy getting the coerced cards, as if it couldn't possibly have been a problem on their birthday. How silly. I guess people find it easier to participate in rituals. Kind of like spectator sports. I'd rather play them than watch them, and if it's going to be a ritual, I'm going to be the shaman, dammit.

Just typing the title- Accessibility Seminar -gives me alternating pangs of anger and gloom. I've been burnt out on the topic for about seven years. Just do it, dammit. Pigeonholing it as a topic separate from web development or design is what really gets me going. I'll go out on a limb and post about a topic that I don't think should be a free standing component. But I didn't start this to gripe- I started it to pass on my take home from the Wednesday morning in Foster auditorium.

Christian Vinten-Johansen gave a solid synopsis of the state of accessibility at Penn State. Christian is knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate; Penn State's best.

Reading. Writing. Communicating
with each other.
Who knew?
Two of the presenters are experts from Rochester Institute of Technology; they mentioned Norm Coombs, their colleague from Rochester, who taught the first online Barrier Free Web Design course that I ever took. They mentioned developing a piece of software called C-Print Pro, software that allows captionists to provide captions in real time and add live captions to an Adobe Connect pod. Most interesting to me, though, was a metric they've developed that allows them to rank courses by the number of communications per person. They simply take the number of asynchronous communications that happen for a given course (measured solely within their CourseMS) and divide it by the number of students, plus one (for the teacher.) They survey students regularly and found that 70% of the students agree they learn more in the courses with more asynchronous communication. You can interpret this is many ways, but one unavoidable truth is that students feel they learn better the more they communicate with others about the course. Reading. Writing. Communicating with each other.

Who knew?

Next, David Cunningham gave an eye-opening demo of JAWS screen reading software. A comment that David made really stood out for me- inaccessibility isn't always the webmaster's fault. Often, someone who is blind won't know how to use their screen reading software. You mean that when someone loses their vision, they don't automatically get increased software ability? I always heard that followed.... Needless to say, there were problems when David entered ANGEL. Nothing horrible and universally despised like uncaptioned media- something really simple, like mislabeled text fields. David is an expert JAWS user, can utilize all its hidden features, but was barred from doing course searches. Or section searches. Or, well, I think it will be on line. It was all recorded- so check it out.

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.

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